With Congress taking a pause during its workday on Wednesday to pay respects to the late Reverend Billy Graham, whose body lay in honor at the Capitol Rotunda, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) held a brief meeting on plans for marking up a bill to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), calling for members to avoid partisanship so the legislation can move forward.
A new date for the markup hasn’t been set but Johnson indicated it will likely be next week. The House approved the bill, H.R. 2825, last July and Johnson’s committee is considering the same measure, although he said there are more than 50 amendments.
Johnson said over the next week as many amendments as possible will be incorporated into a substitute bill to “accommodate other peoples’ views,” but cautioned against partisanship.
“This should be pretty non-partisan,” Johnson said in his opening remarks. “I’ve asked my staff not to try and put anything in here that is partisan in nature whatsoever. I’m going to ask people on both sides of the aisle to do the same thing.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the ranking member on the committee, said the Democrat and Republican staffs “work pretty well together, trying to find those things that we can all agree on so this doesn’t turn into a partisan exercise.” She warned that “It could very easily devolve into that and that doesn’t really accomplish anything.”
McCaskill also said that over the next week Democrats will work with Republicans to "and try to clear out the controversial amendments. I think if both sides will lay down their weapons so to speak, and try and just focus on what we can agree on, I think we can accomplish some things."
The bill largely codifies much of what DHS already does, as well as updates and strengthening authorities. The department hasn’t had a comprehensive authorization bill from Congress since standing up on March 1, 2003.
Johnson also said the bill with “strengthen the appropriations process” and will try to include “good recommendations” from the Government Accountability Office and the DHS Office of Inspector General.
During the business meeting, the committee unanimously approved by voice vote the nomination of Michael Atkinson to be the inspector general of the intelligence community within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.